Greg Henderson: Jaw-Dropping Grape Dishonesty

November 6, 2017 01:22 PM
Non-GMO Grapes

I was recently introduced to cotton candy-flavored grapes. Generally, I prefer my grapes to taste like grapes, not a flavor that reminds me why I dislike trudging through a carnival midway. Yet, I can understand how grape marketers see the appeal of their fruit with the tantalizing taste of cotton candy. One would assume toddlers would be more apt to eat grapes if they taste like candy.

Cotton candy-flavored grapes have been on the market for about four years. They’re sold by Grapery, a California-based company owned by Jack Pandol and Jim Beagle. According to Grapery’s website, “Jack Pandol envisioned a table grape so incredibly plump, juicy and delicious that he became laser-focused on one thing: flavor.”

David Cain, a horticulturist in charge of fruit breeding at International Fruit Genetics in Bakersfield, Calif., told NPR he and his colleagues hybridized two grape species to get the cotton candy tasting grapes. The process of hybridizing grapes is laborious. To create a new grape hybrid, Cain said, “The whole process takes at least six years and sometimes up to 15 years.”

Marketing of the grapes, of course, didn’t take near that long. In fact, Grapery let their marketing team resort to a tried and true—although deceptive—campaign to sell their fruit. They labeled them, “Sustainably Grown, Non-GMO.”

Grapery uses “sustainably grown” and “non-GMO” even though there are no GMO grapes in production.

Unfortunately, Grapery and many companies like them, do everyone involved in food production a disservice when they tout their product as non-GMO, especially when no GMOs exist in a particular food category. Consumers are already confused by food labels, and the vast majority would be hard-pressed to describe GMOs. They just know when a product is labeled non-GMO that must be good, and therefore, GMOs must be bad.

The conundrum for food producers is the science that gave us GMOs has yet to find any evidence or danger from consuming GMOs.  

Grapery, I know you have some talented marketing folks on staff because they wrote this on your website: “Cotton Candy grapes taste exactly like the pink spun-sugar treat you loved as a kid at the circus—and we mean exactly. Pop some in your mouth, close your eyes and you’re that kid again! And here’s a bonus: these grapes aren’t sticky and loaded with granulated sugar like the fluffy stuff you munched on back in the day. But they’re just as sweet—and much juicier. This is fresh fruit you can snack on all you want. Everyone who’s tried these one-of-a-kind grapes has had a jaw-dropping, totally amazed, reaction.”

Yes, my jaw dropped and I was totally amazed, but not by the taste, though I do find that kind of cool.

My befuddlement stems from the fact that you have a great product, yet your labeling and marketing tactics are dishonest.

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Spell Check

Frederick, MD
11/7/2017 08:32 AM

  It appears you are taking your frustration about product labeling regulation out on a specific grower, which is a misdirected attack. Your angst should be directed at the FDA if you have a problem with labeling terminology. Just because YOU know that there are no GMO grapes grown, doesn’t mean the average consumer has that same knowledge. When Cotton Candy grapes hit the market, I saw several news articles and TV interviews where the question of whether or not they were GMO was asked. I’m betting the “non-GMO” labeling was added to reassure consumers that these are not some type of “Franken-food” GMO fruit. Because they are in fact very unique in flavor and a new entrant to an otherwise pretty boring industry, unknowledgeable consumers could easily make the assumption they must be GMO. To add clarity to a product’s label isn’t deceptive, it’s smart. But to attack a company with overly sensationalized headlines such as “Jaw-Dropping Grape Dishonesty” makes me as a consumer wonder what your ulterior motive is. Take up your axe to grind with the FDA if you don’t like the labeling. But many consumers, like me, WANT to know if a product is GMO or not without having to have a degree in horticulture or waste their time doing research. By the way, accusing someone of “dishonesty” in print when their label is factual is probably libel. You may want to ask your attorney about that.


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